The risk from crime is considerable in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the crime rate in the countryside is low. Generally, most travelers and expats feel relatively safe in the country. In this article, I will give you the necessary information about Vietnam Crime and Safety which any tourist or foreigner who lives in the country for a long period of time should know. I will cover crime threat, cybersecurity issues, traffic safety, road, airport, public transportation conditions and many others.
Check out my answers to the most frequently asked questions about safety in Vietnam.
High crime rates in crowded cities Low crime rates in some areas the crime rates are low and you will enjoy the fresh air, hidden and non-touristic places on your trip. There are lots of useful tips on protecting yourself from crime in Vietnam. In fact, the vast majority of foreigners feel safe in this country.
Non-violent property crimes
Pickpocketing, purse slashing, bag snatching, theft of valuables are common in airports, railway stations, bus stations, on trains, coaches, public buses, crowded areas, deserted streets and alleys, tourist hotspots, tourist attractions, parks, markets, outside ATMs on the streets. A snatch thief can make you fall on the street when trying his best to snatch your bag or purse. For example, the thief pushes you down or pull you, a hard yank on purse strap can cause injury. Although these approaches rarely make you injured seriously, you should pay attention to your belongings at the listed places in order to keep your money safe. Using an anti-thief bag, dummy wallet, money belt, money waste belt, leg money belt, underwear, shorts and clothing items with money pockets or hidden zipper pockets, separating your money in different places, hiding some of the money at your hotel are the top ways to keep your money safe in Vietnam. In addition, never count your money or withdraw money at ATMs which are not in a glass booth or an office of a bank.
Theft by motorcycle is rather popular in Vietnam because thieves are able to grab purses and bags as quickly as possible, then escape easily. They may cause serious injury if it is difficult for them to get valuable things from victims. You may be dragged behind a motorbike at a high speed. How to avoid being targeted by thieves by motorcycles? Use a backpack instead of a handbag, keep your bag across your body, not on one shoulder, wear the bag on your front, not on your behind or hip.
Cellphones, photo and video cameras are one of the most favorite targets of snatch thieves including thieves by motorcycles. Never use your phone while walking on the streets or riding a motorbike or a cyclo. Use cellphone protection rings and camera straps to protect your devices from snatch thieves.
Females are easier to get ripped off in comparison to males. So that solo female travelers should be more careful than male travelers. It is recommended to travel with one partner.
In recent days, one of the most common ways of a female Vietnamese thief to steal from a male foreigner is seducing him while grabbing his valuable things. Stay away from any strange Vietnamese person who would like to talk to you, tough your belongings or your body.
The peak crime period is before the Tet holiday when thieves need more money to spend at the biggest Vietnamese festival.
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Violent crimes including homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping involving foreigners remain relatively rare. Sexual assault of foreigners by Vietnamese citizens is rare in Vietnam. Although there is not many reports about kidnapping of foreigners in Vietnam, you should learn how to avoid taxi (or motorcycle, cyclo) kidnapping, which is also called express kidnapping. Passengers may be driven to remote and sparse places, forced to give money and valuable things. Only use trusted and reliable taxis such as Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis. Fake Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis are available and I will go in detail later.
Consider carefully going out at night in Vietnam
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, you should not go out after 22:00. If you must to do that, take a taxi home instead of walking or taking a motorbike taxi. It is the most dangerous after midnight when they race on the empty streets, overdrink, argue, fight on the streets, use drugs at bars, clubs. You may be snatched or stolen by motorcycle drivers, threaten by sharp things and robbed at any time. You may fall victim to any of the types of crimes at night.
How about late-night events and entertainment shows? For example, you may join the huge crowd that cheers Vietnamese football team or enjoys a night in the Saigon backpacker area which is known as the non-sleeping area. Stay away from any argue or fight, do not drink too much, do not stand in the crowd and return to your hotel by taxi.
In the countryside, small-sized cities and underpopulated province, the streets and public places are usually deserted, it is dangerous to go out at night. Simply enjoy the night in accommodations and go to sleep early.
Hotel rooms are generally safe, there is no intruder and murder because a large number of hotels have security guards and install security systems. Theft by hotel staff and hotel guests is not very common. So that if you take sensible precautions, including keeping your money, electronic devices and other valuable things safe, hotel rooms in Vietnam are rather safe places on your trip. You can store your valuable things in safey boxes or hidden places such as curtain rods, empty bottles of shampoo in bathrooms, shoes, bottom drawers, etc. It is even recommended to carry enough money for the day and not to carry your original passport when you go out in Vietnam.
Residential security and AirBnb
Residential security is generally good thanks to the use of good deadbolt locks, securing all man-passable entries, and using alarms and perimeter walls and gates. You should check if AirBnb in alleys are secured with security cameras. Read carefully about the safety measures in apartments rented on AirBnb and other similar websites. Did guests feel safe and secure in the apartments? What are the safety and security conditions of the apartment buildings you are interested in? In fact, not all of the apartment buildings meet international fire safety standards. Call 114 when there is a fire in your place in Vietnam.
Banks in Vietnam reported cameras recording PIN code keypad entries and skimming devices attached to ATMs. Most banks have not installed and tested anti-skimming devices on ATMs. Theft of cash using fake credit and ATM cards is not very common but you should pay attention to the automated teller machines, your credit cards and people around when you withdraw money at ATMs.
Sensitive areas bordering Cambodia, Laos and China
The Vietnamese government considers certain areas bordering Cambodia, China and Laos politically sensitive. Although these areas are open to locals and foreigners, you should avoid military installations and camps there. It is illegal to cross overland into Cambodia, China and Laos except at border checkpoints.
Photography is not illegal at all places
Taking videos or photos of military, police, or other government facilities is prohibited. There have been travelers and expats broke the laws and were subject to punishment.
Road Safety and Conditions
In the countryside, the road condition is not very good, not all of the roads are paved roads, there is a large number of dirt paths, concrete roads, small bridges. In urban areas such as the center of districts, the road conditions are better.
Interprovincial highways are rather except for some sections which are in bad condition. Most of them have from two to four lanes. Motorcycle and bicycle lanes are very narrow and automobile cars and trucks usually com over these narrow lanes so that it is rather dangerous to ride two-wheel vehicles across provinces in Vietnam. Be careful with Hai Van Pass and road to Dalat City which still challenge drivers.
In populated provinces, many foreigners feel unsafe while crossing the streets, driving or being driven on the streets due to chaotic road systems and common disregard for traffic laws. All vehicles on the road, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motor scooters, bicycles, cyclos, three-wheel vehicles drive in any lane although the police sometimes catch lawbreakers.
Vietnamese vendors usually arrange and sell products on sidewalks, shops, restaurants, coffee shops, offices use sidewalks as parking spaces for motorbikes, vehicles drive on sidewalks in rush hours. Some pedestrians walk on the streets because there is no space to walk on sidewalks. It is rather dangerous for pedestrians in big cities in which sidewalks are not well controlled. However, you can still walk on sidewalks in some areas, especially wide streets with wide pavements. Try to walk as close as possible to the sidewalks if you must walk in the street.
Vehicles seem to start driving right after traffic lights turn yellow. They still drive fast and seem not to stop when there are pedestrians crossing the streets at pedestrian crossings.
For the first time, you should cross a street in a group, wait until there is at least one Vietnamese pedestrian who also wants to cross the street and follow him. If you must cross the street by yourself, walk steadily, look for traffic coming towards you, yield to cars, trucks and buses because they may not slow down for you in the crosswalk. Do not stop, zigzag or change your speed suddenly in order to yield to motorbikes which drivers can predict your location based on your path and speed, then swerve around you.
Some public buses’ drivers drive at high speeds and make sudden stops in order to reach the next bus stations on time. Some passengers feel uncomfortable on buses during rush hours in Vietnam. A bus driver often stops quickly at bus stations. If no one leaves the bus and there is no passenger waits at a bus station, the driver will not stop there. In addition, it is sometimes crowded on public buses. Your bags may be stashed and you may be pickpocketed when you hop on/off and in crowded buses. The majority of public buses in big cities Vietnam are equipped with air conditioners, security cameras, sun protection glass so that it is not too bad to get around by bus. Just stay stable when standing or sitting in a bus, watch out your belongings including valuable things, bring enough money for the day and essential things when going out by bus. Signal or inform driver promptly at least 5 minutes before the bus station where you would like to hop off. Signal the bus driver when it is 50 meters away from the bus station.
It has been said that Vietnamese trains are older and slower than in developed countries. However, it is not too bad because it is safer to go by train than by buses and motorbikes in Vietnam. Collisions between trains and other vehicles, and derailments contribute to train delays.
Motorbike and motor scooter
It is rather dangerous to ride yourself or sit on the back of a motorbike in Vietnam. Wearing helmets is a must in Vietnam but there is no standard for helmets. Motorbike taxi drivers may give you poor quality helmets. So that I would like to recommend you not to ride a motorbike across the country or join a long trip by motorbike if you are not an expert on motorbikes and traveling by motorbikes. Joining short motorbike tours in cities to explore hidden gems in alleys and enjoy street foods are not bad choices. Choose trusted scooter tour operators which provide high-quality vehicles, experienced drivers and talented guides.
Negotiate the fare for motor scooter taxi although the fare is cheaper than taxi fare. I would like to recommend you to take the service from a self-managed motor scooter taxi team (đội xe ôm tự quản) which members wear uniforms with shirts and logos. You are at a higher risk of going with a solo motor scooter taxi driver you find on the street. Never use the service of motor scooter taxis at night to avoid being kidnapped and sexually assaulted, it is worth paying.
Grab and Goviet motor scooter taxis are worth using thanks to good prices, safety and convenience. Remember to ensure the license plate of the vehicle matches that on your app.
Cyclo is prohibited in Vietnam but cyclo tours are popular transport in tourist destinations. There are some tourists ripped off and kidnapped by cyclo drivers and cyclo scams are mentioned in lots of travel articles and blogs. If you would like to take a cyclo ride, book with a trusted tour operator. Prices offered by tour operators may be higher than prices offered by freelance cyclo drivers but it is worth paying for your safety.
The death toll from traffic-related accidents is rather high in comparison to Western and American countries. There is a large number of accidents involving motorbikes, buses, trucks are caused by careless, drug and drunk drivers. Drivers who use their cellphones while driving may cause serious accidents.
The number of railway accidents is lower than accidents involving other means of transportation but railway accidents are more common than in many countries. Lots of drivers have tried to beat trains at unmanned crossings.
Certainly, the condition of taxis in Vietnam are not as good as in other countries. But the real marked taxis are rather clean and equipped with air conditioners, taxi drivers are polite, wear uniforms and do not smoke in cabs. Taxis are safer than other means of public transport.
Vinasun taxi and Mai Linh taxi are good taxis in Vietnam. Remember that there are fake Vinasun and Mai Linh taxis. For example, you can recognize the real a Vinasun taxi by:
- The correct telephone number painted on its side;
- The driver who wears a uniform with white-collared button-down shirt which is tucked in, and tie with VinaSun logo, leather shoes;
- Modern equipment including taximeter, receipt machine, tablet for GPS;
- The unique taxi number inscribed on the rear of the front headrests and prominently displayed on the exterior of the vehicle itself.
You can not only hail traditional taxis on streets or at taxi stands but also book a ride on Vinasun app and Mai Linh app.
Electric taxis are more and more popular in Vietnam. Uber left Southeast Asian countries in 2018. Grab taxi is your only electric taxi choice. However, Grab taxi drivers are not controlled as well as drivers of traditional taxis. Some Grab taxis are fake, a car may appear right after you book a ride on Grab, you may accidentally hop on that car, the driver may take you to a remote location and ask for some money. So that you should check if the license plate of the vehicle matches that on your app.
Aviation and airport condition
International and domestic airports are large enough except for Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. If you book with low-cost airlines such as Vietjet or Jetstar, the flights may be delayed and canceled. Airport buses from airports to the center of cities are cheap and convenient.
In some tourist destinations, travelers should join boat and cruise tours to enjoy tourist attractions such as Halong Bay, Phong Nha Cave, Tam Coc, Bich Dong, Perfume River, Nha Trang, Mekong Delta, floating markets at their best. While some tourism operators provide excellent services, some boat tour operators lack basic safety and rescue equipment on their vessels. Never hop on a boat or cruise without life jackets, higher-end tours provide other personal flotation devices.
In addition, many areas of natural beauty such as waterfalls, springs, lakes and beaches lack safety guards and warnings. A certain number of tourists drowned after being swept away in Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan. A few tourists still swim despite warnings of the government and resorts when there are whirlpool or the weather is bad. Although most of the resorts have security guards, most of which are locals and good at swimming in the sea, we are not sure that they are able to save your life.
There is no regional or international terrorism threat or concern in Vietnam.
There is a small risk from civil unrest in Vietnam. Protests are illegal in the country so that you should not stand or sit in a crowd that you do not know anything about.
Northern and North-central Vietnam
In North Vietnam and North Central Vietnam, there are four seasons: spring, winter, autumn and summer. Bad weather patterns affect Northern and North-central Vietnam due to cold spells from November to March. Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains have left many deads in recent years. Hailstorms and strong winds hit Vietnam’s northern mountainous region and cause damage to houses from March to May.
South and Central Vietnam
There are two seasons in South and Central Vietnam: wet and dry. However, you will always sweat despite continuous and heavy rain. So that there is no need to bring winter clothes if you only travel to these regions.
In the Central Highlands and Ho Chi Minh City, the dry season, characterized by dry weather, occurs between December and March, the rainy season runs from April to November. There is a minimal chance of typhoons but rains routinely cause flooding on streets in big cities such as Ho Chi Minh due to poor drainage system. Tourists can not return to their hotel or go somewhere because many taxis and cars do not drive in flooded streets.
Typhoons, resulting in flooding and landslides cause property damage and pose a hazard to local populations in central coastal areas. It is not recommended to visit beaches in Central Vietnam when there are typhoons.
Mekong Delta may be flooded in the rainy season but flood season gives local people lots of specialty foods including seasonal fishes and other freshwater animals, water lily stems, sesbania sesban and other vegetables. You can visit this peaceful region if there is no severe flooding and heavy rain in the flood season which runs from August to November. In recent years, the region suffers salt intrusion and aggravating drought due to climate change has caused environmental deterioration. From November 2019 to April 2020, Mekong Delta has been hit seriously by drought and salinity.
Do not expect for privacy in Vietnam but we do not discuss more about this in this article. All speakings and acts against Vietnam, the government and the Communist Party are not allowed. Remember not to speak, discuss or post on social media the following topics:
- Racism, sexism, history, religion, politics, social order.
- Information and news which you are not sure about the accuracy.
- Entice other people to violate laws.
In general, Vietnam is one of the most gay-friendly countries in Southeast Asia. Same-sex sexual activity is legal although there are no laws protecting against discrimination on LGBT people. Vietnamese people in tourist destinations, as well as accommodations, have a generally more open and tolerant attitude towards the behavior of foreigners.
The most commonly seen police and public security personnel include:
- Traffic police, who wear tan uniforms and are responsible for traffic management and traffic law enforcement. If you drive a car or ride a motorbike yourself, you may be caught by a group of traffic police. Read more about 10+ Must things to know before riding motorcycle in Vietnam.
- Public security police, who wear dark green uniforms with red epaulets. They perform routine police functions, such as respond to calls and investigate crimes.
- Mobile police, who wear black uniforms with the letters “CSCD” which stands for “Cảnh sát cơ động”, carry out the functions of riot police and SWAT police.
- Other uniformed groups perform quasi-police functions, such as the Civil Defense Force, volunteer traffic, tourist security, and private security guards, who have no actual legal authority.
You can call 113 if you need help from the police, make a police report or an inquiry. Police in cities and urban areas typically respond more quickly than in rural areas, where road conditions are poor and distances are far. Read more about Emergency Phone Numbers in Vietnam and Common Vietnamese Phrases for Emergency.
Health care system
In the past, Vietnam’s health care infrastructure does not meet Western standards. In recent days, the quality of medical care is limited in rural or remote areas. In major metropolitan areas, large government-owned hospitals are crowded although the majority of experienced and talented doctors work there and modern equipment is available. Some of the workers speak limited English there. Private international hospitals are choices of rich people and foreigners. The staff speaks English well, many of them have studied and trained in many countries with the best healthcare systems in the world. You do not not need to worry because major government hospitals and private international hospitals are able to handle serious cases. The top of them include France-Vietnamese Hospital (FV Hospital), SOS Hospital, Family Medical. Read more about Vietnam‘s Top 10+ International Hospitals and Clinics.
Dial 115 for calling an ambulance in Vietnam if you have any health problems. The staff on ambulances speak limited English, they usually take you to one of the public hospitals and provide life-sustaining treatment. If you would like better emergency medical service, you can call directly private clinics or hospitals, which have their own private ambulances and English-speaking doctors and nurses.
Diseases and Immunizations
Before coming to Vietnam, make sure that you receive all routine childhood immunizations. In Vietnam, travelers may contract hepatitis A and typhoid through contaminated food or water, so that you should receive immunizations for these diseases before your trip. If you stay in Vietnam for a long period of time or are traveling to forests, mountains, rural areas, you should have Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis B, and rabies vaccines.
The serious outbreak of dengue fever occurs in July and August in provinces and cities of Vietnam, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. So that you should wear long clothes, sleep in well-screened rooms or under a mosquito net, and carry mosquito repellent on trips to places where mosquitos are abundant.
Malaria typically occurs only in rural areas, with the exception of the Red River Delta, Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Quy Nhon and Nha Trang. If you are going to malarial areas, read more about how to avoid contracting malaria. Taking a prescription anti-malarial drug and using insect repellent containing DEET are the most excellent pieces of advice.
Zika is endemic in Vietnam. Exploring forests and national parks in the country, travelers face danger from poisonous insects and snakes. Learn first aid procedures and treatment if you are bitten.
Stay away from stray animals, which can spread rabies to humans.
Tap water and drinks
Tap water in Vietnam is not safe to drink. You should only drink bottled water. It is also recommended to not brush your teeth with tap water but bottled water. Some people carry portable water purifiers or filters and use filtered water to brush there teeth. Some higher-end hotels have water filter systems so that their guests can brush their teeth with tap water in hotel rooms.
Theoretically, ice cubes served at restaurants, coffee shops, drink stalls are made from purified water. But not all ice cubes are safe to drink in Vietnam. So that you can order a cool can of soft drink, coffee, milk, coconut water or a hot drink instead of an iced drink in case you worry about the safety and hygiene at an eatery or a drinking place.
Vietnamese coffee is strong and you may feel drunk after drinking coffee. Drink a cup of coffee little by little. Poor-quality coffee and other drinks are popular in the country so that be careful of them.
It is not easy to ensure food safety and hygiene in Vietnam. Foods served at higher-end hotels, resorts and restaurants are rather safe. Not all street food stalls sell safe foods so that you should consider eating cheap foods in the country.
I have written an ultimate guide to food safety in Vietnam and I would like to recommend you read it to avoid getting food poisoning while traveling the country.
Summary on Vietnam Crime and Safety
Generally, it is safe to travel to Vietnam if you are careful and follow some advice on staying safe in Vietnam. Check out my answers to the most frequently asked questions about safety in Vietnam.